His bio: Dylan Horrocks lives in New Zealand and is the author of the graphic novel Hicksville (recently re-released in a new edition by Drawn and Quarterly) and the comic books Pickle and Atlas. He has also written for DC Comics, including Hunter: the Age of Magic and Batgirl. His current work can be seen at http://hicksvillecomics.com.
from Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen, ©2009 Dylan Horrocks
First question: Storming The Tower says “Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen feels like a very personal story, one in which the artist has laid himself bare on the page.” Is there any particular set of influences or aspirations that guide your sensibility and style?
Well, yes, The Magic Pen is a very personal story — though it is fiction rather than autobio. I started working on The Magic Pen some years ago, when I was writing Batgirl for DC and struggling to get my own comics done. I was kind of losing my faith in comics — or perhaps, more precisely, in stories. So The Magic Pen was a way to process all of this. But for me, the most effective way to process things isn’t simply to tell the story of what I’m going through — it’s to construct an imaginary daydream that allows me to explore ideas and feelings pretty freely. Which is what I’m doing with this story. As for influences, The Magic Pen is feeding off a lot of different things, but one that springs to mind is the sheer enthusiasm and freedom I enjoy in the work of Joann Sfar and many other European cartoonists at the moment: Dupuy & Berberian, Stanislas, Trondheim, etc. Come to think of it, I guess The Magic Pen is taking me back to that whole tradition of French & Belgian cartooning that so inspired me when I was still at school — Yves Chaland, Serge Clerc — cartoonists who turned up in 80s magazines like (À Suivre) and Metal Hurlant. And then further back to, of course, Hergé – who’s always been one of the biggest sources of inspiration for me. Maybe in order to find my love for comics again, I had to go right back to a time when that love was pure and simple.
from Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen, ©2010 Dylan Horrocks
Question no. 2: Other than its purpose as a slice-of-life comic about making comics, what do you want people to take from Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen?
God knows. To be honest, I’m drawing The Magic Pen for me, first and foremost. I mean, obviously, I hope other people get something out of it, but ultimately my priority when I began was to try and find my way back to loving comics — and more generally, stories, daydreaming, fantasy. The slice of life stuff lasts the first few chapters and then things take quite a different turn — which is where other themes really come to the foreground. One of the things I’m wrestling with in The Magic Pen is what happens when my own private daydreams start to be eclipsed or infected by fantasies that don’t come from me: commercially driven products, or even someone else’s personal fantasies. On one level, it’s about the fragility of our internal mental ecosystems — but also their richness and fertility. And, speaking of fertility, there’s a fair bit about erotic fantasy in there too — especially in upcoming chapters. Partly because that seems to me one of the most powerful and potentially dangerous forms of fantasy, but also — well — because it’s a hell of a lot of fun to draw!
from Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen, ©2010 Dylan Horrocks
Question The Third: What appeals to you about publishing Sam Zabel and The Magic Pen online after serializing parts of it in print in Atlas?
I’m a big fan of the interwebs and their potential to transform the way art is spread and shared. I love the way it enables me to publish each page as it’s completed (which helps keep me on track, thanks to twice-weekly deadlines!), and also the way people all over the world can read my work, even if they live miles away from a comic shop or have no money. So long as they can access the internet, they can read it. I love that! Plus I get a lot of inspiration from many of the prolific, talented, young cartoonists active in the webcomics scene – they inspire me to just draw the damn thing and get it out there. I can remember being a teenager in the early 80s in New Zealand, when just finding out about comics — any comics! — took enormous effort (and often money). Now I meet kids who are unbelievably well-informed and well-read, and whose comics are already online for all to see. It’s wonderful!
I know some authors and publishers are confused and alarmed at the way the internet is changing publishing, but I really don’t find it frightening at all. For one thing, the amazing possibilities and benefits dwarf the perceived downside, IMHO, and for another, I think there’s a lot of misinformation and hysteria about piracy and e-books and so on. There’s lots of great new stuff happening thanks to the internet — and I get a huge amount of pleasure and creative inspiration by being part of that.
Of course, I fully intend for The Magic Pen to be published on paper once it’s finished (by my calculations, the first volume should be ready for next year), because paper books are still totally awesome. Paper, pixels, whatever — it’s all just comics!
Dale Lazarov is the writer/editor of chic hardcovers of gay comics filth — STICKY, MANLY and NIGHTLIFE — published by Bruno Gmünder Verlag. Visit Swanderful, his tumblog of Curt Swan comics art, and his very NSFW gay erotic art tumblog, Fuck Yeah Dale Lazarov.